Fear Knot?

I’m realizing days in this world often speak these words: ‘Lord, why?’ Whether it’s the saddest of stories half a world away, or right at home in what seems the worst.

Ken Ham (Answers In Genesis founder) says “I now see God was using those circumstances to prepare us for His plans – beyond what we could ever imagine.” That’s how it is, a looking back. A Bible full of ‘look backs’ resounds with His faithfulness. But still each of us must have a lifetime of looking back, seeing for ourselves His trustworthiness.

So little by little we take steps of faith – trusting the best we can. “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” (Hebrews 11:1 NIV)

Starting to teach my two year old grandson to pray – his favorite part is Amen. Turns out it should be our favorite part as well. Simply, it means ‘So be it’. But not as in our telling God what to do, as in acknowledging we’ve laid out those prayers and we know His answers are always the best.

Here’s a really cool thing: Amen is also one of the names of Jesus. “These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation.” (Revelation 3:14 NIV)

Jesus is our ‘so be it’. Not a magic lamp to rub and get all our wishes – a peace, joy, comfort, strength far beyond our own. All the fears this world tries to settle on us are silenced forever in Jesus our Amen.

Today I’m calling that uneasy tummy feeling our fear knot and telling our souls to fear not!

“Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” (Luke 12:32 ESV) I love Jesus’ tender phrases: ‘little flock’ – caring for us knowing we are little compared to all the darkness that wants to threaten us. ‘Good pleasure’ – nothing pleases Him more than seeing us through right into forever. ‘Give you’ – no price we have to pay, nothing we have to do. He gives us the kingdom – eternity.

No more fear knots – just baby steps of faith. “For all of God’s promises have been fulfilled in Christ with a resounding “Yes!” And through Christ, our “Amen”, (which means “Yes”), ascends to God for His glory.” (2Corinthians 1:20 NLT)

Last Time…

Sometimes we never know – when the last time of something will be.

This crazy world has us saying ‘It’s Friday already’ or ‘It’s Monday again’. Time whirls by and we go through each day as though we always will. We set aside certain days as special – a birthday, holiday, anniversary. But what about today?

I listened as a movie trailer said ‘what if you knew today was the last day of your life’. Hmm, thinking on that I realized we don’t know – so how should we live? “So you, too, must keep watch! For you do not know the day or hour of My return.” (Matthew 25:13 NLT)

Here’s the conclusion that occurred to me: today is the last time, the one and only time, we will live today. We don’t get this day back, no do over or ‘again, again’ as my grandson says about our fun playing.

Yes, those who have Jesus do get forever and there is so much (so, so much) comfort in that. But He has given us this day. It is a gift. Why do we live it as ho-hum? I’m not saying decorated cakes and gifts everyday. I’m saying break out of the deception that keeps us plowing along, so often missing the glory of the next moment. “But encourage each other daily, while it is still called today, so that none of you is hardened by sin’s deception.” (Hebrews 3:13 CSB)

Today is the last time I will kiss my husband good morning on this day, the last time I will twirl my grandsons at the very age they are today, the last time I will stroke my aging kitty’s fur just the way he is right now.

Tomorrow is never a given. While we can’t live in fear of no more chances to wake up to wonder once again, we’re way past due to wake up in the moment of now and cherish it. This is the day the Lord has made – rejoice! Be glad in it! “God Most High, I will rejoice; I will celebrate and sing because of You.” (Psalm 9:2 CEV)

RESToration…

Projects – a lot of work. Restoring something – an old chair or an old house requires…yikes, patience.

I’m wondering if Jesus has ever said ‘yikes’ as He takes us on to restore us to Him? For some the restoration of our spirit by His Holy Spirit comes at a young, tender age. Things aren’t completely rusted or worn down – still it’s a life-long process. For some this work begins later in life, so many broken pieces, walled off areas of hearts.

Unlike our projects of bathroom remodels or vintage cars, the transforming work of Jesus isn’t seen this side of heaven. Still He persists. “…and that same glory, coming from the Lord, who is the Spirit, transforms us into His likeness in an ever greater degree of glory.” (2Corinthians 3:18b GNT)

Recently I had some much needed down time. I’ve found that refurbishing of our souls doesn’t require a lot busyness. It seems to come in rest. The more I rested the more refreshed I became.

One morning I woke just before the sky lightened. I tiptoed out back in my nightgown and sat in the cool air looking up as dawn revealed more and more of this little piece of the world. That’s how it is with us. Little by little Jesus restores us – revealing a bit less worry, a tad more patience, a new found joy or peace. “Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies.” (2Corinthians 4:10 NLT)

We’re all about ‘what do I need to do’ – when Jesus is all about ‘rest in My doing’. This is hard for those of us who just want to reach the goal or want to see that last puzzle piece laid in.

My grandson loads his little excavators with scoops of sand and pours them in the waiting dump trucks. Never bothers him when much of it lands on the ground. He just keeps filling and dumping and enjoying the process.

Hmm, that’s it, can we trust God enough to let Him fill what’s lacking in our souls and dump out the stuff that crowds out faith? RESToration comes as He prepares us for a someday where all the old has been made new. And His treasures (yes, you and me) will never rust or spoil or fade. “…and so we look forward to possessing the rich blessings that God keeps for his people. He keeps them for you in heaven, where they cannot decay or spoil or fade away.” (1Peter 1:3 GNT)

Delay Tactics…

Nap time or bedtime – words that signal little boys to suddenly find many things to do.

In the end maybe they were successful delaying closing those eyes, but it eventually happened. I learned a life lesson recently that I wish I had embraced long ago. Pastor Todd Mullins recounted the wilderness wanderings of the Jewish people in the book of Genesis. A journey towards freedom from an oppressive past that should have taken three or four weeks, took forty years.

Complaining and doubting had them walking around in circles, getting nowhere. Was he talking to me? My doubting could lead to delays? “But let him ask in faith without doubting. For the doubter is like the surging sea, driven and tossed by the wind.” (James 1:6 HCSB)

Truly we trust God – just kinda want to help Him now and then. Truly we believe He can do what seems impossible – could He just send a note confirming it’s all good? I’m not saying our doubts altar God’s plan – for He will accomplish His purposes no matter what. But what if our doubts steal our peace, our joy, our ability to be genuine?

And what if our doubts hinder not just us, but those around us? “Remind me each morning of Your constant love, for I put my trust in You. My prayers go up to You; show me the way I should go.” (Psalm 143:8 GNT)

Suddenly doubt, unbelief, lack of faith – whatever we call it, takes on a whole new light. I’ve mentioned before the father who brought his son to Jesus to heal. Jesus inquired if the father believed. The father responded (paraphrase): ‘Absolutely, umm help my unbelief’. Perhaps until we see Him face to face, doubts will rise. But maybe if we acknowledge we could be missing out on a whole lot of blessing, we’ll be able to surrender sooner.

I don’t want to wander in the wilderness. This world is not our home but it is our reality for now. Focusing on the problem = defeat. Focusing on His faithfulness = His answers. Pastor Todd went on to say that God’s uses three ways to lead us to His answers: 1. the problem itself as it grows and stretches and leads us 2. prayer as we believe God for His answer and seek Him diligently, and 3. a person, who may just be the blessing we need. Or who knows, maybe we’re their answer.

No more delay tactics.

I Declare…

My childhood was a bit eclectic when it came to speech. From deep south ‘Well I declares’ to out west trend setting phrases.

I’m finding words are not wasted in the Bible. Each purposeful, each calling attention. Many times in the book of John he says ‘Jesus said’ – but a few times he says ‘Jesus declared’.

Pondering this one: “Then Jesus declared, ‘I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me will never go hungry, and he who believes in Me will never be thirsty.’ “ (John 6:35 NIV) It’s strong and sincere and done to get the attention of the listener.

This is what Jesus wants us to know beyond doubt: when we surrender our life to Him we will never feel hunger again. Not the tummy growling kind, the longing kind. We will never thirst again. Not the parched throat kind, the unsatisfied kind.

And so in our doubts of life that we’ll still be tossed about by, we will feel His presence and know there is no other. No other peace, no other promise, no other help.

Oh we will still lift up tear-filled eyes and ask why? What purpose? We will still feel weary at times. But Jesus goes on to say just five verses later: “For My Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in Him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.” (John 6:40 NIV)

So now while we wait that last day, it is to us to declare. Because this is a promise that is to be shared.

There’s a beautiful song, Ancient Words, that sums up what we must remember about this Bible He’s preserved for us. From the sweet words of Jesus and the life lessons of all who have gone before. Many today will relegate it to a collection of antiquities, maybe admired but not taken seriously.

But hearts sealed for Jesus know this: “Holy words long preserved, for our walk in this world. They resound with God’s own heart. Oh, let the Ancient words impart…Words of Life, words of Hope. Give us strength, help us cope. In this world, where e’er we roam ancient words will guide us Home.” Hear this declaration sung so beautifully below – be changed and declare!

 

 

After All…

“In all the setbacks we experience in life, God is plotting for our joy – but it’s probably not going to look like you think.” (Pastor Jay Holland)

My mind has been turning over the saying ‘after all is said and done’. Six words that hold a lot of meaning. In our self-focus we usually use them hoping for our idea of an outcome. What if it isn’t at all like we pictured?

When all is said and done, no matter the outcome, will we say: ‘I still trust God, He’s got this’ ? “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in Me.” (John 14:1 NIV)

Recently I’ve been reading author Dee Brestin and she said “Sometimes when you find out Jesus is all you have, then you realize that’s all you need.”

I’ve been turning that over too. Because truth is, Jesus is everything. His breath breathed life, His hands formed mountains, and He knits together wee babes. “My frame was not hidden from You when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, Your eyes saw my unformed body.” (Psalm 139:15-16a NIV)

So going back to what Pastor Jay said, God is plotting for our joy – all our steps and mis-steps. Nothing makes Him say: ‘Uh-oh didn’t see that coming’. All things do work out for the good of those who love Him – sometimes it may not be right now. But right now is temporary. The someday of forever is good – always.

Turns out all those ‘what ifs’ I’ve let stop me cold in my tracks weren’t beyond His control. All my regrets haven’t tarnished the good in store.

After all…all these earth days – God is good. His love is perfectly good – and our good is His utmost joy. “All the days ordained for me were written in Your book before one of them came to be.” (Psalm 139:16b NIV)

 

Great Expectations…

Sometimes great things aren’t pretty but they’re still what’s best.

I have a friend who signs her emails and notes with her name and then: ‘Expecting Great Things’. Not because she wishes them, not because she deserves them, not because she has it all. Because she knows God, the One who knows the plans He has for us.

Oh sometimes those plans don’t look so great. We want to run, hide – we want do overs – we want anything but this plan. And yet – “There is no wisdom, no insight, no plan that can succeed against the Lord.” (Proverbs 21:30 NIV)

This is how I’ve found great things show up – unexpectedly. The extra money, the anonymous gift, the phone call, the long wait. Yep, great things are encouraging and discouraging – pleasing and unpleasant.

A family’s sudden loss of a father, a business’ unexpected financial decline – these are not great. At least not right now. But the big picture isn’t our view. We see only the here and now. God sees the someday. “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God…I will come back and take you to be with Me that you also may be where I am.” (John 14:1a, 3b NIV)

My tendency has been – mostly – to not embrace the not so great. In fact, I tend to fight and control and stress. You?

But I’ve noticed in the midst of all that stressing I’m missing other things I do think are great. When we’re so wrapped up in the hard of now we miss out on the rest of life around us. I don’t want to miss the pink sunrise, the baby’s sweet sigh, and the other big things that are going right if I would just look.

We can expect great things because we serve a Great God. Great mercy, great love, great forgiveness, great salvation and more. Great is His faithfulness – may ours start to reflect Him and not our  puny expectations. “For His faithful love to us is great; the LORD’s faithfulness endures forever. Hallelujah!” (Psalm 117:2 CSB)

A Mother’s Protection…(Guest Blog)

Today, a talented young writer, Joelle Denoff, is guest blogging – I wanted to share her wisdom and her love with all of you. May you be blessed.

I recall as a child always looking to my parents for protection when I felt vulnerable or scared. Specifically my mother. She was blessed to stay at home with my brothers and I while my Dad provided for all of us.

Most children have fond memories of their mother being their protector and the person they could run to in time of need. I wasn’t any different. However, in the midst of my teenage years, protection felt more like restriction. I was old enough to know to not do things like touch a hot stove top or run out in to traffic. But there were other dangers. These became a burden for my mom that led her into being an even more intense prayer warrior. (Sex, drugs, alcohol, gossip, greed, jealousy, trust in the wrong people, etc.) The list could go on forever for a teenager – not to mention driving a car with all the other crazy motorists on the road!

I wasn’t the extremely careful  type and many of the previously listed transgressions plagued me on a daily basis. And guess what? A mother knows. She knew about the dangers and pitfalls of all of these things. Turns out she was also a real person – one that had been young and mostly unprotected at times.

I was blessed to be raised in a household that sought God’s protection on a daily basis, and this was passed down to me as well. You see, even though quite a few of my mom’s attempts to protect me were thwarted by my rebellious and curious nature, God was still there to fill in the gaps. That is ultimately the prayer of a mother’s heart. Where she cannot protect, God will take care of the rest. I put myself in countless situations where the outcome would have been far less than favorable and yet, I believe, that through my mother’s steadfast prayers, God’s protection always won out against my own path. And it always will.

There have been times where I sought God’s protection myself and surely felt it. Whether in the midst of some situation or shortly thereafter, I knew that I could seek God and He would be my shelter. “You are my hiding place; You will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance,” (Psalms 32:7 NICV). The reason that I knew that God was my best and safest source of protection was because of my mother. She not only exemplified who God was in her protective ways, but she also bound that protection on me through daily Scripture readings. She knew that through repetition and the Holy Spirit, I would remember that I could run to Him for protection.

A mother’s love is so intertwined with her need to protect her child. Now I am acutely aware of this – for I have a child of my own. Though we have many years to look forward to (he is only six months old), I find myself already constantly praying for protection over his body, mind, and spirit.Love ALWAYS protects” (1 Corinthians 13:7 NIV) My prayer for my son is that he will be a quicker learner than his mother – or maybe he won’t have to learn nearly as many lessons as I did. I pray that wisdom will be with him early, through the knowledge passed down from his mother.

Ultimately, protection is God’s gift to every mother that seeks it for her child. It doesn’t always look the way we would like it to, and it certainly doesn’t mean that bad things won’t happen. But it does mean that your child is not lost forever. God’s love and His protection is the ultimate Mother’s Day gift for me.

Then Monday…

Ever have one of those? A Monday – the one you weren’t expecting but thought you had all planned?

Not too long ago Tuesday was supposed to be a blue sky, low temp, low humidity South Florida day (those get rarer this time of year). I was excited to have my grandson that day and had big plans. But on Monday I decided some heavy duty scrubbing was needed.

Before evening came I was gritting my teeth, wondering how I would even walk behind a two year old, let alone pick him up. Funny how easily our world ‘falls apart’. Sometimes the least thing and all the doubts surface. I’m thinking we must make Jesus sigh an awful lot. “He sighed deeply and said, ‘Why does this generation ask for a sign?’ “ (Mark 8:12a NIV) We’re no different than when He spoke that 2,000 years ago.

Doubt – universal. We doubt ourselves, we doubt those close to us, we doubt those in power, we doubt foreigners, we doubt God. It’s true. Hard as it is to admit, I do doubt the Father – in my weak moments.

It is in those moments He reminds me: His strength, not mine. His ways, not my ideas. His perfect love, not my conditional love.

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” (James 1:17 NIV)

This year is marching on and I’m trying not to look back and assess what did or didn’t happen. Trying not to be anxious about what will or won’t happen in the next eight months. Living in the now is His call to our hearts. Every moment precious. Living thanks for wonders, joy, peace – and for the hard too.

I don’t want to be doubting Paris – I want to be trusting, faithful – free. We’re captives, enslaved, when we let anxiousness take over. We’re free when we take God at His Word.Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7 NIV)

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Mandy Hughes

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